Warmed up for a winter tour: A Q&A with Sweater Beats

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When Antonio Cuna — who performs under the name Sweater Beats — emerged onto the electronic music scene, Cuna brought with him a bevy of influences from a diverse background. Cuna was born in the Philippines and later moved to the suburbs of Maryland, where he grew up listening to R&B greats like TLC and R. Kelly. As an electronic music producer today, better known as Sweater Beats, Cuna’s fusion of R&B, pop and EDM in his remixes and original songs have made him an established EDM maverick.

From October through the cold wintry nights of December, Sweater Beats is embarking on his first debut live tour across North America. Sweater Beats has been working on a melting pot of tracks to heat up the dance floor for his upcoming For The Cold EP. Sweater Beats recently spoke with The Daily Californian about his new EP, the upcoming tour and his journey toward discovering and honing his trademark sound.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

The Daily Californian: From Sweaters to Sweater Beats, your name has gone through a bit of an evolution. What does your name mean to you and has it carried the same meaning since you’ve had it?

SB: When I came up with Sweaters, I wasn’t actually taking myself too seriously. I just thought it was cool. Sweaters are warm and fuzzy and I wanted to make my music something like that. I think it still carries the same meaning. At the same time, I want to try to make you sweat on the dance floor.

DC: Do your family members and friends call you Sweater Beats?

SB: Everyone actually calls me Sweaters. My friends and manager call me Sweaters, not Antonio. I call my producer friends by their producer names as well. If I hit up Manila Killa, I’ll just be like, “Hey Manila!”

DC: How do you go about producing songs versus creating remixes? What is your creative process?

SB: Most days, I actually just put a drum loop chord progression and hum a melody over it and then just jam. Once I get that down, I try to form an idea around it. Melody is one of the most important things when recording a song. Other times, I find a cool sound from a sample pack from the internet and let it grow from there.

DC: So you’re kicking off the For The Cold tour right in our backyard in San Francisco. Do you happen to find inspiration from the Bay Area music scene and its history as the birthplace of the hyphy movement?

SB: Yes, absolutely. Four or five years ago, I heard music from this label out there called “Frite Nite” that has B. Bravo on it. They produce a lot of funky stuff and I get a lot of inspiration from them.

DC: You’ve toured with Chance the Rapper, Chet Faker and Flume in the past, but this is the first time you’re headlining a solo tour. When you perform in front of a crowd, what goes through your head on stage?

SB: Most times before I go on stage, I’m really nervous because anything can happen. Once I go out there and things go well, I’m vibing with the crowd and try to engage with everybody and just have lots of fun.

DC: What kind of sound can we expect from you on this new project For The Cold and how does it differ from your previous EPs, Cloud City and That Feel?

SB: A lot of the songs I will be playing on tour will be from the new EP. There will be most of the classics, all the new stuff, remixes and some unreleased things too. For The Cold has more pop sensibility. All the tracks on it have some featured singer and are just songs you could listen to. For the sound, talent-wise, I’m trying to expand from what I’ve been doing for the past three years with new, fresher stuff. It’s a spectrum of emotion. Some fun songs, some sad songs. … When you listen to it straight through, it’s a roller coaster.

DC: Growing up in suburban Maryland, you started off working in emo bands. Would you venture outside of EDM and R&B/hip-hop and revisit emo music again or other genres in the future?

SB: Absolutely! I would love to do something after everything’s said and done. I put out Sweater Beats, but I’d definitely do a side project. Maybe emo, indie rock, something with heavy guitar or acoustic guitar; but, yeah, I’d totally do this in the future.

Sweater Beats will be performing a headlining show at the Mezzanine on Oct. 27.

Contact Abigail Balingit at [email protected].